BENDS IN THE RIVER

 

Sitting in the focsle

Bare feet up on my desk

Black coffee and hash

4AM

 

Drifting as I often will

Saudi Arabia

At the dock

Unloading wares of war

 

A pounding on the door

The Chief Mate’s head appears

“Bos…we have just gone to MOPP Level IV

Get your people fore and aft and stand-by to break away”

 

MOPP Level IV

Incoming…in the air

Carbon chemical suits

And gas masks on

 

“Fuck…!”

They bring fire axes to the bow

“If we give the word cut the lines”

In the silence that follows the day men look at me

 

“Put those axes below

Someone is going to cut their foot off

If we are told to break away

Slip the lines and let them fall

 

The tugs are going to pull us off the dock”

My bud’s voice - the 2nd mate - is heard on the radio

From Yarmouth or somewhere around there

He cannot find his gas mask

 

Everyone looks at each other

Nobody speaks

I think back to the previous morning

Inspecting the deck gang

 

“Cal, where is your auto injector?”

The auto injector, a massive needle loaded with a .22 cap

Designed to go through clothing

And, help you survive chemical poisoning

 

He looks me in the eye

“You know what I did with that fucking thing?

I threw it over the side.

Better I die than shoot myself with that thing!”

 

Trying not to smile I answer,

“That is your choice.”

O yeah…the incoming…?

Patriot missiles blew them out of the sky

 

A few bends in the river away from that time now

Bare feet still up on the desk

The coffee has a little cream

Totally wrapped up in love

 

Projects and such…

Spinning in the eternal twilight

A fly falling as in slow motion

Against the backdrop of a white and blue crystalline spring morning

 

Settling lightly on the fluid calm surface

Just before a violent explosion

Yes… many bends away from the iron ships

In time, distance and spirit

 

But – as you can see – I have never entirely left

And, I have begun speaking and thinking

When I am done here… maybe I will go back

Maybe yes, and maybe no

 

If I do, I will pick a ship going to the most primitive spot on the planet

Descend the gangway with Paul Simon lyrics in my ear

“I’ve got a Nikon Camera

Love to take your photograph…”

 

I simply know I will get some takers!